David Cornstein: Orban's tenure one of the most successful periods in Hungary's democracy
Viktor Orban's governance is one of the most successful periods in Hungary's democratic history, writes David Cornstein, former US Ambassador to the country, in an opinion piece for the American conservative Newsmax magazine.
Hungary is “a beautiful country with wonderful people who love Americans,” Mr Cornstein underlined in his article. As he wrote, Hungary “has a thriving economy, while the cost of living is about half that of other European nations.”
“Hungary still Europe’s best-kept secret,” writes former Ambassador David Cornstein in @newsmax. “Orbán has transformed the nation into a powerhouse” https://t.co/iSXo52b2Wt pic.twitter.com/qISKGwclX6
— Zoltan Kovacs (@zoltanspox) October 6, 2021
He noted that, based on articles appearing in the American media, no such picture emerges, and that if he had made a decision based on the headlines, he probably would not have accepted the post of ambassador.
“Like most of our allies, Orban’s government is not perfect either, but the prime minister has kept the nation’s long-term interest at heart and used common sense for setting policy,” he added.
The former US ambassador highlighted that
Hungary’s prime minister boosted the economy by ensuring free enterprise, promoting deregulation, tax cuts and other measures that former US President Donald Trump would agree with.
Before PM Orban, Hungary endured eight years of mismanagement by socialist governments, Mr Cornstein noted.
Prior to the coronavirus epidemic, gross domestic product (GDP) growth placed Hungary among the top performers in Europe, he added, recalling that the unemployment rate was at an historic low, at just 3.7 per cent.
In addition, the government aims to ensure that families benefit from the economic upswing. According to PM Orban, since families had been the hardest hit by the epidemic, they should be the first to benefit from the results of the economic recovery. To this end, Mr Orban announced this year that if Hungary’s economic growth tops 5.5 per cent, families with children will get back all the personal income tax they paid in 2021.
“What a difference from the tax-and-spend policies of the current U.S. administration,” Mr Cornstein noted.
On the issue of migration, the former diplomat called it “heartbreaking” to see what is happening on the southern border of the US. He contrasted the US’s handling of migration pressure with the Hungarian attitude. He stressed that during the migration crisis in 2015, Mr Orban acted decisively, and he immediately built a barrier fence to stem the tide of people.
“He was the first European politician to say out loud that the immigration of people with radically different backgrounds is not desirable,” Mr Cornstein recalled. “Orban has been proven right,” he added, pointing out that following the failure of Germany’s naive Wilkommenskultur policy that allowed practically anyone into its nation, countries like Austria, Denmark and even Sweden have followed Hungary and stopped or seriously slowed down immigration.”
Migration was one of the topics that put Mr Orban in conflict with the European Union, and that have exposed serious division within the EU between the dominant liberal democracies of western Europe and the newer member states in the East, which are more conservative, Mr Cornstein wrote.
“Brussels has taken Orban’s government to task, claiming it is weakening judicial independence in Hungary and eroding the rule of law,” he recalled.
The former ambassador emphasized that people in the US often raised eyebrows over Hungary’s alleged “closeness” with Russia. However, being dependent on Russia in terms of energy, maintaining a civilised relationship with Moscow is key to Hungary’s security. Besides, NATO membership also plays a decisive role in Hungary’s security policy, he stressed.
Mr Orban has said repeatedly that his goal is to improve the Russia-NATO relationship, because if relations between East and West are bad, Hungary will lose out. “Wise words,” the former ambassador noted.